Abstract In recent years, the plastic behavior of technologically attractive nanocrystalline materials has become more prominent in the mainstream scientific community. In this work a short review on the current understanding of the effects of microstructural characteristics on mechanical behavior of nanocrystalline materials produced by different methods including severe plastic deformation is presented. The microstuctural information with the mechanical data obtained from these nanoscale materials was analyzed in the context of plasticity at truly diminished length scales. Experimental data arising from testing at different conditions clearly demonstrate that some microstructural features other than just grain size (grain boundary structure, grain size distribution, etc.) can also be responsible for the exhibited material behavior. Special emphasis is given to the difficulty of intragranular dislocation generation in nanoscale structures at diminished dimensional scales and its effect on accommodation processes in grain boundary mediated plastic behavior.